Be assured: in case you’re one of those peo­ple who don’t like their work (or their work­place), you are not alone. Let me share some head­lines, lit­er­al­ly, from all over:

GALLUP: Unhap­py Work­ers Are The Sin­gle Biggest Threat To Chi­na” [link]

Con­tact cen­tre work­ers [in Britain] – unhap­py and iso­lat­ed” [link]

Most Hun­gar­i­an Work­ers Unhap­py, Boss­es Need Improve­ment” [link]

Mon­ster Sur­vey Sug­gests Man­u­fac­tur­ing Work­ers [in US] May be Unhap­py, Seek­ing More Ful­fill­ing Jobs” [link]

Major­i­ty of Malaysians unhap­py in work­place” [link]

U.S. Job Sat­is­fac­tion At Low­est Lev­el In Two Decades” [link]

Indi­an employ­ees rest­less regard­ing future career goals, look­ing for job change fre­quent­ly, accord­ing to Kel­ly Ser­vices India” [link]

062413_daily news

Okay, there are sev­en new sto­ries of the dozens I might have list­ed. And, while the above links are fresh, I can find sim­i­lar reports going back in time. Here’s just one, from 2009: “Unhap­py Aus­tralian work­ers pre­pare to aban­don ship” [link].

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, these sto­ries report sub­stan­tial work­place dis­sat­is­fac­tion. Here’s a typ­i­cal excerpt, recent­ly report­ed by The Wall Street Jour­nal under the head­line “Work Makes Peo­ple Mis­er­able” [link]:

New research based on sur­veys using a smart­phone app found that work­ers were unhap­py and stressed while on the job. In fact, respon­dents ranked being sick in bed as the only activ­i­ty more unpleas­ant than work­ing. When offered dozens of options rang­ing from leisure, such as going to a con­cert, to per­son­al paper­work, such as pay­ing bills, work­ers pre­ferred clean­ing the house or wait­ing in line to being on the job.

All of this may be stir­ring mem­o­ries of the thoughts of Deb­o­rah Mills-Scofield that I rec­om­mend­ed in my post on “Les Biz­er­ables” [link]. Deb­o­rah could not have been more spot on when she talked about the bur­geon­ing lev­el of fear in work­places as peo­ple face cer­tain change. While peo­ple might not care for the sta­tus quo, the threat of change seems even less palatable.

In Deb­o­rah’s words: “So what do we, our peo­ple, our orga­ni­za­tions do? We shut down. We show up, do our jobs, fol­low poli­cies and pro­ce­dures and check our hearts, souls and even minds at ‘the door’. We know what that does to growth, prof­itabil­i­ty and pur­pose!” [link]

It is easy to become depressed over this trend. In me, these reports stir my own com­mit­ment to mak­ing work­places bet­ter by mak­ing them more focussed on the future and by mak­ing that focus shared, not singular.

TIME recent­ly pub­lished one of the few relat­ed sto­ries on this sub­ject that had a thread of opti­mism. “You Prob­a­bly Hate Your Job — But You Don’t Have To” (by Josh San­burn) [link] offers five rec­om­men­da­tions on how unhap­py work­ers can them­selves start to embrace change. Specif­i­cal­ly, San­burn quotes “Jim Har­ter, Gallup’s chief sci­en­tist for work­place management.”

Accord­ing to San­burn, “Employ­ers play a key role in deter­min­ing whether a work­place is enjoy­able or not, of course. But employ­ees also main­tain sig­nif­i­cant con­trol over whether they feel ful­filled at work.” How? Har­ter offers five points:

Under­stand expectations. 

Make sure you have the tools you need to be effective.

Tell your boss what makes you most effec­tive and fulfilled.

Devel­op relationships.

See the big­ger picture.

That final point is where man­agers should be most atten­tive to work­er needs. I’ve often shared with audi­ences my anal­o­gy that being immersed in dis­rup­tive ambi­gu­i­ty is much like dri­ving a car in dark woods at night with­out head­lights. Nextsens­ing can be lib­er­at­ing for work­ers and man­agers alike as all join in an effort to find the next lev­el of growth and reward for an enter­prise. As San­burn flesh­es out that fifth point about see­ing the big­ger pic­ture, he says:

A big part of feel­ing ful­filled is mak­ing sure you have the right job in the first place, and that’s often a mat­ter of feel­ing invest­ed in the over­all goals of the orga­ni­za­tion. “We have a basic human need to see our­selves as part of a group that has an impor­tant pur­pose,” says Har­ter. “The more peo­ple feel they’re con­nect­ed to that larg­er tribe, the bet­ter the per­for­mance because they’re think­ing about some­thing bigger.

Mis­ery today is preva­lent in com­pa­nies. Find­ing what’s next for those com­pa­nies is the first and best way to make things better.

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